Big Hit: Praised Israel Museum’s Abstract Art Exhibit Reveals Huge Works Once Hidden

A gallery in 'Fields of Abstraction,' currently exhibited in the Israel Museum through October 2022 (Courtesy Eli Posner/Israel Museum)

There’s an expansive feel of color and space in “Fields of Abstraction,” a new abstract art exhibit at the Israel Museum featuring works from the museum’s collection, some of which have never been shown before.

The exhibition, which opened February 3 and ends October 15, features 43 large-scale abstract works from seven decades, providing an immersive experience of second-wave abstraction.

It was named by Christie’s as one of the best exhibitions of 2022 in Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and South America.

There are huge canvases and colors filling the galleries of the exhibition curated by Adina Kamien, who drew from the museum’s collection dating from 1949 to the present day.

Kamien said about sixty percent of the artworks have never been shown due to their massive dimensions.

She was inspired to curate the exhibit after visiting a nature reserve in Jerusalem filled with purple lupine flowers at the start of the pandemic, when the outdoors and space offered a sense of upliftment that she aimed to recreate with the large-scale works in the exhibition.

Working with pieces by well-known post-war North American, European and Israeli artists, Kamien has divided the galleries of the exhibition into three areas, titled Contemplative Expanses, Energetic Surfaces and Geometric Balance.

Land artist Richard Long’s ‘Turf Ring’, 1991, is featured in ‘Fields of Abstraction’, currently on display at the Israel Museum until October 2022 (Courtesy Eli Posner/Israel Museum )

“It’s about the effect the artists wanted to create and how the viewer reads it,” Kamien said.

Each of the artists on display strove to broaden the experience of their art through an exploration of materials, gestures and surfaces, said Kamien, which included works by Helen Frankenthaler, Jackson Pollock, Pierre Soulages and Tsibi. Geva, among others.

Gilad Efrat’s work is featured in ‘Fields of Abstraction’, currently on display at the Israel Museum until October 2022 (Courtesy Eli Posner/Israel Museum)

One of Energetic Surfaces’ works is “Horizontal Composition”, 1949 by Jackson Pollack, a narrow, horizontal work that may have been scaled down from its original size, with Yehiel Krize’s white-on-white dishes and the exuberant color of Sam Francis’ 1973 work, “Untitled.”

The exhibit includes videos of some of the artists painting, including Pollack as he raises his hands to splatter paint onto the canvas.

Contemplative Expanses features the bold, bright and modern colors and stripes of Morris Louis’ “Iota”; the layers and removal of squeegee paint in Gerard Rechter’s $20 million “abstract painting” of 1994; and Grand Tour,” 1983 by Frankenthaler, the one that “started it all” for Kamien, featuring the artist’s “dip-stain” technique inspired by Pollack’s drip method.

Helen Frankenthaler’s ‘Grand Tour’ is featured in ‘Fields of Abstraction’, currently on display at the Israel Museum until October 2022 (Courtesy Eli Posner/Israel Museum)

“Grand Tour” offers a natural-looking landscape, as the colors of brown, taupe and blue blend together, mimicking the great expanse of land, water and sky that bleeds beyond the canvas itself.

The exhibition looks at the second generation of abstraction, when the reworking of the canon began to make room for lesser-known names.

Jean-Paul Riopelle’s work is featured in “Fields of Abstraction”, currently on display at the Israel Museum until October 2022 (Courtesy Eli Posner/Israel Museum)

Kamien devotes one of the Energetic Surfaces galleries to the use of Japanese calligraphy, used by the post-war generation as one of their influences, represented in works such as “Black and White”, 1959, by Willem de Kooning, whose lithograph on display reflects his own 1970s exposure to Japanese ink drawing.

The Geometric Balance portion of the exhibition centers on Richard Long’s “Turf Ring”, 1991, a circle of artificial grass bricks arranged on the ground, drawing inspiration from British folklore and his ongoing work in land art.

Artist Lea Nikel’s work is featured in ‘Fields of Abstraction’, currently on display at the Israel Museum until October 2022 (Courtesy Eli Posner/Israel Museum)

Kamien also included the unique color “Orange Stain” by Lea Nikel, a Ukrainian-born Israeli artist whose works were considered too abstract for her Israeli instructors and “Plowing Under the Snow”, the multi-layered paint by Jean Paul Riopelle, known for squeezing paint straight from the tube and liberally applying it with a palette knife to create her mosaic-like works.

Online visitors can discover the exhibition through the exhibition website, which leads the viewer through the various movements of abstraction, artist by artist. In particular, it is easier to scroll forward through the images than to scroll backward.

When visiting the exhibition in person, visitors can scan QR codes in the galleries, access the museum’s website with the images, artwork scans and links to written, visual and listeners to the world of abstract art.

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